Smiggle is going global

Solomon Lew (Photo: Bloomberg)

Billionaire retail veteran Solomon Lew is boosting the global presence of his iconic kids’ stationary store, Smiggle, after announcing plans to open up 50 new stores across Hong Kong and Malaysia over the next five years.

Managing director of Premier Investments’ Smiggle, John Cheston, has singled out the growing appetite for fashion-based stationary in Hong Kong’s shopping centres which he describes as being a “fertile ground” with “limited competition”.

“In Hong Kong if you are hot they want you and if you are cold they don’t. We are in demand from the landlords over here. We need to leverage that business with the agents who represent us and get good locations and get good deals. The biggest challenge is getting the space and the rents,” Cheston told the AFR.

So far, the retail chain store has opened more than 100 stores in Australia with shop fronts in New Zealand, Singapore including another 16 stores to open up before Christmas in UK this year, bringing the total to 200 stores in the UK.

The decision to go global rides off the success of the stationary empire with last month’s figures reporting a sales jump of 26% to $132.6 million, making it the fastest-growing business within the Premier Investments apparel group.

The retail is holding optimistic expectations about its first foray into the Hong Kong and Malaysian marketplace after testing the waters in Singapore earlier last year with plans to generate $55 million in revenue.

“The international business in a very short period of time will be much larger than the Australian business and there are not too many Australian retailers who have been successful offshore,” said Lew.

“This is going to be world-class operation and there is no reason it shouldn’t work in any country in the world where there is moderate income.”

The decision for the retail giant to take things global has been on the cards for some time now.

“The retail environment in Australia remains challenging, however we continue to adapt by rejuvenating our core brands, growing uniquely positioned brands like Peter Alexander and seeking opportunities for further offshore expansion of Smiggle,” said Solomon Lew more than two years ago.

These comments were followed up by Lew who said that there would be continued investment to support the growth of Smiggle in local and overseas markets earlier this year despite volatile consumer confidence.

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